"Participation and access of women to the media
and their impact on and use as an instrument
for the advancement and empowerment of women"
26 August to 27 September 2002
"Representation and Content Issues"
We have just concluded
another exciting week of online discussion on the topic "Representation and content
issues." For the third week of our online discussion, the contributions focused on:
It is also important to organize women's training on technical subjects and employ women as trainers in such training. Bianca added that for those who are indifferent to gender issues, gradually mainstream gender in the conduct of training.
The Equality Office of the city of Zurich, Switzerland has carried out several advertisement campaigns in public transportation to break stereotypes. Some of these ads include teasers like: "Who would you prefer as pilot in your flight to New York?, " "Who would you prefer to take care of your sick mother?," "Who would you rather employ as a cleaning person," or "To whom would you bring your car for repair?" Together with each of these questions are the faces of a woman and a man. Another campaign play with words and statistics around the issue of who does more household work. It ended with a call for change by saying to be continued... Both campaigns lead to discussions among passengers and in the media.
Dialogues among women's rights groups, NGOs, and advertising professionals have also been held to discuss specific ads that have been found to be sexist. However, Bianca believes that the advertising sector was not willing to see when commercials are sexist and neither were they ready to consider other alternatives.
The Centro de Estudios de la Mujer (CEM) in Argentina with the support of UNIFEM gives awards to non-sexist advertisements in conjunction with the prestigious Iberoamerican Festival of Publicity. This has proven to be effective in changing stereotypes especially when complemented with other educational campaigns and teacher training. Gloria Bonder elaborated that the members of the jury that selects the awardees include journalists, representatives of women/feminist organizations, educators, and publicity professionals from different countries of Latin America. CEM also organizes educational campaigns in 5 countries of Latin America including electronic forums, and other networking and exchange activities. There are also plans of holding a contest of ads for young publicity professionals.
Another initiative that Gloria spoke about is the Regional Campaign in Latin America called " Eyes that see, heart that feels" conducted in Argentina, Chile, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Mexico. The campaign was participated in by women´s NGOs and schools in each country. 2500 students joined a school activity aimed to promote the "discovery" of gender and social stereotypes in publicity using a common methodology; discuss the findings and propose new content and images to represent a gender and class- and ethnicity- fair publicity.
Fatimata Seye Sylla from Senegal stressed that women are more inclined to participate when the trainers are women. She shared the results of a research conducted in Senegal that proved that women are capable of producing their own information. Such finding led to the establishment of a women's radio station called Manore (Know-how) FM.
Divina Paredes from New Zealand believes that the best place to start is in the academe. She suggested the enforcement of rules against the use of sexist or gender-insensitive language in the classroom, in research papers and in discussions. According to her, these rules should cover all departments because media practitioners do not necessarily come solely from journalism and communications departments. Divina's other suggestion is to include gender- sensitive reporting in courses on media coverage and reportage. Anjali Mathur from India supported Divina's suggestion. However, she stressed that gender sensitization has to be incorporated into the entire education system--beginning from kindergarten level. Divina also suggested that media advocacy groups establish close links with journalists who would be open to promoting ideas on fair coverage by inviting them to forums and sending them materials for publication or broadcast.
Sharon Bhagwan Rolls cited the media mainstreaming training which includes discussion of the Women and Media Section of the Beijing Platform for Action (Section J) and the United Nations Resolution on Women and Peace conducted by the National Council of Women of Fiji (NCWF). These discussions among women NGOs, media, and government representatives were organized in the light of the post-conflict reconstruction stage in Fiji --an important strategy of linking the documents and issues together which resulted in actual media coverage rather than just forming resolutions which, according to Sharon, "sometimes just end up as words on paper." Similar discussions participated in by television management representatives have been organized. Such meetings have given the NCWF opportunity to pursue their lobby against an ad of a whitening cream. Sharon observed that change is possible in advertising as some companies are using a social marketing approach. Another initiative in Fiji is the media education for teachers and the wider community through the conduct of workshops, and production of newsletters and video by the group SIGNIS.
Uca Silva from Chile spoke about a media monitoring project in Chile in 1987 which aimed to promote a gender perspective in the media and address issues of representation and sensitivity. She also informed us about a collective study by the Working Group of the Southern Cone that was mainly a quantitative analysis of the presence of women in the media. The study aimed to provide a common framework and clear indicators for the implementation and evaluation of gender-sensitive communication. It also hoped to enable communicators, academics, and activists to formulate strategies for change.
Jane Haile from Belgium raised the point that men are also stereotyped in the media. "Men and masculinity have been treated as givens, as "norms" against which women and femininity were compared," she said. She cited studies in the United States that showed masculinity based on the traditional patriarchal white middle class norm wherein men are portrayed as successful, high status, initiators of action, autonomous and rational. Gay men, on the other hand, are defined by their "problem" and tend to be secondary or stooge characters.
Anjali Mathur from India highlighted the importance of feedback from readers and women journalists which can possibly lead to a change in editorial policies.
Additional contributions to week 2
More contributions to the week 2 topic "Access, employment, decision-making" came in this week.
Mariam Fayez informed us that the Government of Egypt has established a 'Gender Unit' in all its ministries and government agencies. The aim of the unit is to ensure [equal] opportunities in the work place [including the media.]
In Switzerland, one trade union in the electronic media is working on gender-mainstreaming directed towards employment.
In Senegal, Fatimata Seye Sylla observed that there are now more women in the media but few are at the decision-making levels. At the national radio, television, and newspaper organizations, most of the women are employed as technicians and reporters. In a few cases where there are women in decision-making positions-as in the case of the national TV where the director is a woman, there is still no impact on gender equity.
Tanushree from India confirmed that in her country, while a large number of women have already reached senior positions in the media, they have not reached a critical mass as yet. Another interesting observation that Tanushree presented is the correlation between media ownership and recruitment policies and employment. Tanushree contends that in India, recruitment policies in government-owned TV and radio companies are non-discriminatory whereas in the privately-owned print media, employment and promotion for women is often arbitrary.
Ulrike Helwerth from Germany shared the same observation that despite the increase in the number of women in decision-making positions in media, there has not been any significant improvement in the portrayal of women in the media. She spoke about the mentoring and gender training projects that they have undertaken to address the perennial problem of negative, and stereotypical portrayal of women in the media. She also shared the training and evaluation that her organization conducted for the "Deutschland" magazine-an excellent example of possible collaboration with government.
Rita Henley Jensen from the United States shared with us a study that reveal that the actual number of women in media is decreasing. It may be accessed from the May 21 2002 release of Women's Enews . Women's Enews is a non-governmental response to both the lack of women in leadership roles in news media and the lack of news coverage about issues of special concern to women. It assigns free-lance journalists around the globe to research and write news about these issues and distribute a daily news story via e-mail to media outlets and opinion leaders, as well as the general public. It also provides training for journalists (and interns) to look for news stories related to these issues. Another initiative cited by Rita is that of the Washington-based International Women's Media Foundation, which conducts leadership training for women. The Media Management Center at Northwestern University--a dual program of the Kellogg School of Management and Medill School of Journalism is another effort to teach women in middle management skills they may need to rise higher, such as negotiating techniques and marketing strategies.
Dafne Sabanes Plou from Argentina informed us that the offering of courses on Social Communications has allowed more Argentine women to enter the media profession and has helped female journalists to reach middle or even senior decision-making positions. She stressed however, that these advancements have been part of the overall advancement of women in Argentine society. Dafne also underlined the role that the Argentine women's movement played in the fight against the military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983 and in the consolidation of democracy after that. She also spoke about the contribution of the community radio movement led by organizations like the World Association of Community Broadcasters (AMARC) in empowering women not only in small towns and rural areas, but also in the suburbs of big cities.
Dafne also drew attention to persistent issues such as sexual harassment in the work place and the existence of a glass-ceiling that hinder women´s [advancement] in any career.
Raijeli Nicole from Isis-Manila supported the previous observations that employment patterns in the new media would not be significantly different than women's employment in traditional media print, TV and radio. Raijeli cited a research project that Isis coordinated as part of the Beijing +5 Review process which brings to the fore economic status, geographic locations and ethnic identities-factors that affect women's participation in communication processes. Raijeli also underscored the lack of women's access to the new information and communication technologies (ICTs) and gender biases in their development.
Thank you once again to all those who participated in the second week of the DAW online discussion on women and media including those who contributed to the week 2 topic on access, employment and decision-making. I would like to invite those who were not able to take part in this week's discussion. You are most welcome to share your ideas in the coming weeks. Looking forward to everyone's enthusiastic participation.
Division for the Advancement of Women -- DAW
Department of Economic and Social Affairs